There's no denying it anymore, the NFL replacement refs are simply not good enough. This collection of lower division college officials are not adequately prepared to referee professional football, and the lockout needs to stop right now. Games have become dangerous, frustrating, slow, and borderline unwatchable. Pay Ed Hochuli whatever the hell he wants, because this situation is completely out of control.
Last night's “game,” between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks was the proverbial cherry on a sundae (Sunday?) of embarrassing calls that have plagued the NFL all year. This contest was quite literally decided by the referees to a degree that perhaps no other game ever has been in the history of sports ... and they got it wrong. Because of a blown call, which was really two blown calls in one, the Packers lost the game and the NFL lost its integrity. ESPN is calling it “controversial,” but you'll only find die-hard Seahawks fans (and presumably the refs on the field) in favor of the ruling.
The call came on a hail mary pass that ended the game in favor of the Seahawks when it was ruled a touchdown despite an apparent interception by Green Bay Safety M.D. Jennings. There was also a blatant offensive pass interference that went uncalled on the same play, but this gaffe was overshadowed by the inexplicable ruling of “mutual possession” between Jennings and Seattle Receiver Golden Tate. Watching the replay, it's clear that Tate only grabs the ball after Jennings has it in his control. One referee called it an interception, another called it a touchdown, making this play the perfect encapsulation of the chaos and confusion that has surrounded the NFL and its replacement refs all year.
I'd say that things have gone too far, but that was true after last week's Monday Night Debacle between the Falcons and the Broncos, where a baffling fumble recovery decision arguably cost Denver the game. Indeed, things have gone too farther. Controversial calls, as well as downright incorrect ones, have been a factor in just about every game this season. The ending of last night's contest was just the most glaring example so far.
But the replacement refs aren't just blowing calls, they're also embarrassing the league with their overall game management. There have been too many procedural gaffes to count, some of which have had major impact, and the amount of “extra-curricular” pushing and shoving after the play has been at an all-time high with minimal repercussions. Combine that with the verbal diarrhea whenever the replacements have to explain a penalty, and it's impossible not to get the impression that we're watching the NFL on amateur night.
All that being said, I don't blame the refs themselves for any of this. Yes they've been bumbling and bungling their way through every game, but expecting anything less would be like replacing NASCAR drivers with 16 year olds and thinking everything is going to be OK. I put the blame squarely on the league. The NFL has insulted the intelligence of its fans by pretending that the replacements aren't that much worse than the regular refs would be. Obviously I don't know every detail of the labor dispute, but I know that Roger Goodell was a fool to think that he could get away with these shenanigans. It's time to put an end to the nonsense and get back to real NFL football with the real referees.